Next Thursday, the General Synod of the Church of England will debate a motion relating to the Windsor Report. The event will be covered live by the BBC Parliament TV channel from 8.50 am GMT. See report confusingly headlined Gay bishops on BBC Parliament.
The exact wording of the motion to be debated is below. For further documentation relating to this debate, read this earlier report.
The motion to be moved by the Bishop of Durham and debated by Synod (starting at 9am on Thursday 17 February) is:
That this Synod
(a) welcome the report from the House (GS 1570) accepting the principles set out in the Windsor Report;
(b) urge the Primates of the Anglican Communion to take action, in the light of the Windsor Report’s recommendations, to secure unity within the constraints of truth and charity and to seek reconciliation within the Communion; and
(c) assure the Archbishop of Canterbury of its prayerful support at the forthcoming Primates’ Meeting.
My own analysis of this is below the fold.
It’s important to distinguish between the actual brief report of the HoB and the lengthy paper appended to it, both of which are contained within GS1570. Only the former text was agreed by the HoB (and they made some changes to the latter before agreeing to publish it).
It’s clear that the purpose of the HoB report was to give RW their unanimous backing (blank cheque?) for whatever he judges best, as he goes to chair the Primates Meeting the following week, and the objective of the GS motion is to persuade the GS as a whole to do the same.
There is no reference in the HoB text to any of the specific recommendations of the WR itself, and only the briefest reference to the attached paper.
The only parts of WR which are mentioned at all in the HoB text are these three sections:
The wording of para 3b in their report is extremely cautious, vague even, referring only to “all steps necessary to seek to achieve reconciliation… in the light of the recommendations of the Windsor Report”.
Although there is a request in para 3c for one specific action, it is only for the provision of a theological rationale. The absence of any other specifics at this point is quite striking.
There is support for the principle of drawing up of an Anglican Covenant, but no more than that is said about it.
The wording of the GS motion itself is also very cautious, and does not ostensibly commit those who vote for it to any specific recommendation of the WR.
So why is the debate going to be controversial and heated?
Because despite all that I have said above, any vote in favour of this motion will be interpreted – rightly or wrongly – by many people, on all sides of the issue, as a formal endorsement by the CofE of the complete set of Windsor Report recommendations. All attempts at nuance will be lost in the hubbub. There’s no easy way to make a distinction between supporting Rowan Williams and supporting the Windsor Report.
All this will happen the day after the synod has debated the principle of women bishops, surely a more fundamental ecclesiological issue than this one. And yet the Communion has, it seems, already agreed that it is not necessary for anyone to break communion over that.